‘Paladins’ to ditch its Cards Unbound system amid ‘pay-to-win’ concerns

In November, Paladins developer Hi-Rez Studios announced “Cards Unbound,” a new system for leveling up the attribute-enhancing cards already included in the game. At the time, this decision drew criticism from players, who feared that the system — mixed with microtransactions — could lead to the game becoming “pay-to-win.” Many Hi-Rez developers felt the same way, and following a backlash from players, the studio has opted to remove it from the game entirely.

“We know this system has angered many of our most loyal fans and become a point of continuous contention int the Paladins community (and even inside of Hi-Rez.) Your voice has been heard loud and clear,” executive producer Chris Larson said in an update post. ”

The internal debate Larson mentioned was first reported a day earlier, when an anonymous developer voiced fears that the system was being implemented against most employees’ wishes.

Cards Unbound aren’t being removed from the game instantly, but will Hi-Rez will be working “over the next major release cycle” to replace them with a different system that will not require as much grinding.

“I don’t think anybody wants to have a power level different between casual and ranked [play],” the developer said. “It’s just a pay-to-win system. The company is being forced to do something that people within the company don’t want to do.”

The Cards Unbound system allows players with duplicate cards to level up their existing roster, meaning those who have played the game for longer periods of time are at a statistical advantage compared to newcomers in the game’s quickplay mode — the competitive mode makes all cards the same level.

This isn’t the first time Paladins has attracted controversy. When the game was released, Hi-Rez was accused of copying Blizzard’s Overwatch, as the hero shooter has a similar premise and several characters have abilities nearly identical to those in Overwatch. At the time, Hi-Rez Chief Operating Officer Todd Harris denied the accusations, saying the design process began years earlier and Team Fortress 2 “deserves the most credit.”

More recently, Hi-Rez announced Paladins: Battlegrounds, a battle royale mode not-so-subtly inspired by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Though the game is the first hero shooter to jump into the battle royale craze, the cynicism surrounding its name hasn’t done Hi-Rez any favors. The mode is expected to make its way to the game sometime this year.

Paladins is available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Mac, and PC. The game is free-to-play, but a $20 “Founder’s Pack” containing all heroes, exclusive items, and chests is also for sale.

Updated on February 23: Added information on the removal of Cards Unbound.